Children Fleeing War-Exploring the Mental Health of Refugee Children Arriving in Israel after the Ukraine 2022 Conflict

Rony Kapel Lev-ari, Roy Aloni, Amichai Ben Ari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: In February 2022, Ukraine suffered a devastating assault by Russia, leading to destruction, casualties, and mass displacement. Among those displaced were over 1.5 million children. Forced displacement exposes children to a heightened risk of mental health issues. Objective: This study investigated the prevalence of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues among child refugees shortly after their displacement from Ukraine to Israel. It aimed to identify factors influencing PTSD development and explore their associations. Methods: The study included 59 child refugees who had arrived in Israel after fleeing the war in Ukraine. Parents completed self-report questionnaires to assess their children's mental health. Results: Only three children met the DSM diagnostic criteria for PTSD, with higher scores in the negative cognition and re-experiencing clusters. Over half of the children exhibited general mental health problems, with approximately 40 % showing internalizing problems, and 30 % showing externalizing problems. The study also found a significant comorbidity between PTSD symptoms and internalizing problems. Additionally, internalizing problems emerged as the sole significant predictor of PTSD levels when considering factors such as age, gender, economic status, parents' work status, internalizing problems, and externalizing problems. Conclusions: Child refugees frequently experience psychological distress, even if they do not meet the formal diagnostic criteria for PTSD. They often exhibit other distress symptoms, primarily internalizing problems, which can be challenging to detect. A deeper understanding of the challenges faced by refugee children can inform the development of targeted assistance programs and the recruitment and training of personnel in host countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106608
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Volume149
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • Conflict
  • Displacement
  • Metal health
  • PTSD
  • Refugees
  • Risk factors

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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